"We are already experiencing a sustained climate of terrorism on both sides, to the extent that I constantly feel the explosions of bombs from where I am." This message was written by Jaime Guzmán, a professor of Constitutional Law at the Catholic University, to his mother on August 29, 1973. Guzmán would later go on to become the eminence gris, a significant figure in the crafting of the 1980 Constitution, which was approved by referendum during Pinochet's presidency (with a surprising one-third of votes against, a remarkable occurrence in a dictatorship; it never happened in People's democracies). This constitution is still in force today, albeit heavily reformed. Tragically, Guzmán would later be assassinated by the extreme left in 1991.
This letter is just one of the numerous parallels between Chile in 1973 and Spain in 1936. In December, after the fifty-year-old civic-military rebellion, Guzmán would write:
On September 11, Chile no longer had true institutions or authentic democracy and was experiencing virtual political, economic and social anarchy. And it is an inevitable law that anarchy is always followed by dictatorship. The only question was whether it was going to be Marxist or military.
The suicide – not murder – of Salvador Allende in the besieged Palacio de la Moneda, made it remarkably easy for the international left to create a new idol-martyr, almost reaching the stature of Che Guevara. Both shared a deep commitment to totalitarian ideologies. In 2005, Víctor Farías, famous for his exhumation of Martin Heidegger's period of Hitler's servility, published in 2005 Allende: against Jews, homosexuals and other "degenerates." In his work, he uncovered the eugenic-racist militancy of the doctor Salvador Allende, both in his doctoral thesis Mental hygiene and delinquency (1933) and in the bill he presented in 1941, during his tenure as Minister of Health of the first Government of the Popular Front, which he himself defined as "a legislative tripod in defense of the race" and that would be rejected by Parliament. Notable excerpts from his writings include: "The Hebrews are characterized by certain forms of crime: fraud, falsehood, slander and, above all, usury." "The Spaniards and Italians of the south are, because of their susceptibility to the intense climate, beings incapable of achieving a normal moral status." "Steinach, Lipschutz and Pézard have managed to cure a homosexual by grafting pieces of testicles onto his abdomen."
The attitude of the Chilean Socialist Party towards democracy was in the 60s and 70s the same as that of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) of Francisco Largo Caballero since 1933: democracy could be of interest as an instrument or bridge to the dictatorship of the proletariat, not as an end in itself. The elections, says the document of the XXII Congress of the Chilean Socialist Party (1967), "do not in themselves lead to power. The Socialist Party considers them as limited instruments of action, incorporated into the political process that leads us to armed struggle." Allende's international travels in the late 60s were to the USSR, North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba. The electoral platform that would allow him to reach the presidency in 1970 – after having been defeated on three previous occasions – was the Popular Unity, which allied the Socialist Party with the Communist Party, the Radical Party, the Movement of Popular Action Unitaria (MAPU) and other ultra-left groups. Allende only won 36% of the vote, but benefited from the division of the right and center between candidates Jorge Alessandri (National Party, 35%) and Radomiro Tomic (Christian Democracy, 28%).
Once in power, Allende does not deceive anyone: its aim is to replace the "bourgeois state" with "people's power." The first step is a radical agrarian reform, plus the nationalization of banks, major industries and copper mining (the American mining companies Anaconda and Kennecott would not receive compensation, the government alleging the "excessive profits" received in previous decades). In the famous interview granted in 1971 to Régis Debray Allende he explained it this way, after having confessed his admiration for Castro's Cuba (which in November walks for a month throughout Chile giving rallies, as in conquered territory):
We have immediately hit the reaction hard. Insistently. They take one hit and don't recover, and we give them another. For example, the constitutional reform to nationalize copper; Imagine the creation of the National Peasant Council, the expropriation in Concepción of an important textile company, the nationalization of steel, the nationalization of coal, the project of nationalization of the banks! Well, Régis, are we or are we not looking for the road that leads to socialism?
In addition to the nationalizations, the Popular Unity government raised wages sharply by decree and capped the prices of basic products, financing all this with the printing of banknotes. The result was the same as these measures have had for centuries: the hyperinflation (which in 1973 would exceed 600%, causing real wages, despite their nominal growth, to fall by 38%) and the consequent destruction of savings. In November 1971, Chile declared a unilateral moratorium on servicing its public debt; Banks cut off credit, foreign trade collapsed, shops emptied.
Alongside the destruction of the economy, the undermining of the rule of law through the creation of a parallel "people's power" that included not only squads of peasants and workers who seized farms and factories, but also the instruction of ultra-left militias by foreign advisers (Cubans, Czechs and East German); Allende himself surrounded himself with a guerrilla corps guard, the GAP (Personal Armed Guard), which defended him on September 11, 1973, producing 17 casualties among the besieging military.
The Popular Unity executive was denounced and ordered to resign by the other branches of government, the Judicial and the Legislative. The Supreme Court protested on May 26, 1973, against the intervention of the mayors, dependent on the Government, who prevented the forces of public order from recovering the factories illegally occupied by the Soviets: "This Supreme Court must represent to V.E. for the umpteenth time the illegal attitude of the administrative authority in the illegal interference in judicial matters, which means, no longer a crisis of the rule of law, as was represented to you in the previous official letter, but a peremptory or imminent bankruptcy of the juridicity of the country" in the previous office, but a peremptory or imminent bankruptcy of the country's juridicity." And again on June 26: "The powers of the judiciary are being ignored by Your Excellency." On July 8, 1973, Eduardo Frei, president of the Senate, and Luis Pareto, president of the Chamber of Deputies, addressed an open letter to the President of the Republic: he was accused of destroying the national economy, and of "vilifying with profane language the other public powers, such as the Magistracy, the Comptroller's Office and the National Congress," the preparation of a civil war is denounced: "There is certainty that weapons have been distributed, and strategic dispositions are adopted and instructions are launched as if Chile were on the verge of an internal war. This means in fact creating a parallel army, in which many foreigners are involved, which is clearly intolerable. The so-called People's Power is not the people of Chile. They are political groups that describe themselves as the people and that intend to subdue other workers by force without hesitating before any means to achieve it." Finally, on August 22, 1973, the Chamber of Deputies approved a devastating agreement that stated, among other things:
The Government has not committed isolated violations of the Constitution and the law, but has made them a permanent system of conduct, going so far as to systematically ignore and trample on the powers of the other branches of government, habitually violating the guarantees guaranteed by the Constitution to all the inhabitants of the Republic. and to allow and protect the creation of parallel, illegitimate powers, which constitute a very serious danger to the nation: with all of which it has destroyed essential elements of institutionality and the rule of law.
Thus, Chilean democracy was in the summer of 1973 as demolished inside as the Spanish in the spring of 1936. A military coup ensued, supported there as here by half of the political spectrum: the right and the center, Christian Democracy included, and even the Radical Left of Luis Bossay, split from Popular Unity. Patricio Aylwin, the first president after the restoration of democracy in 1990, undertook a tour of Europe in 1973 to explain the coup, including a famous interview on Televisión Española (TVE). Former Christian Democrat President Eduardo Frei wrote a letter to the president of the Christian Democratic International, the Italian Mariano Rumor:
In our opinion, the full responsibility for this situation corresponds to the Popular Unity regime established in the country. Men known on the continent for their guerrilla activities were immediately occupied in Chile with positions in the Administration, but they dedicated their time to paramilitary training and installed guerrilla schools.
And yes, both the Spanish civic-military rebellion of 1936 and the Chilean rebellion of 1973 committed heinous crimes.: In the Chilean case, some 3,200 murders between 1973 and 1990 (60% between September and December 1973; 84 military and police officers also fell in that period, confirming that the left was armed), as a result of the investigations undertaken after the return of democracy.
Unlike Franco's regime, Pinochet's was always aware of its provisional character. and emergency. Jaime Guzmán explained it this way in a 1974 interview:
It is about creating a new institutionality that, better adapted to the current times, ensures the permanent values that the Western libertarian [sic] regime contains. Hence, one of the first acts of the current Government has been to appoint a commission of prominent jurists and law professors to prepare a draft of a new Political Constitution, on which the people will have to pronounce. On the other hand, it is clear that a country economically in ruins and placed in an objective situation of civil war, with illegitimate armed groups formed by extremists, cannot restore its democratic coexistence in the short term.
That it was about re-establishing the "libertarian" core of Western civilization was not Guzmán's rhetorical statement: Pinochet entrusted Chilean economists trained at the Chicago School (Milton Friedman) with a sanitation plan that people called "el Ladrillazo." The results were remarkable, laying the foundations of the economic takeoff that made Chile the most prosperous country in Latin America (GDP per capita rose from $1,632 in 1973 to $15,833 in 2013: growth has since been interrupted): government spending fell from 32% to 22% of GDP; inflation from 606 per cent in 1973 had been reduced in 1990 to 22 per cent per annum; a truly independent Central Bank was created; A funded system for retirement pensions was adopted. Politically, the 1980 Constitution paved the way for the restoration of democracy, in addition to explicitly defending life from conception to natural death, affirming the principle of subsidiarity (the State should not assume what the family, the market and civil society can resolve on their own) and declaring the family the fundamental nucleus of society.
As in the cases of South Korea, Singapore, Portugal or Spain, the Chilean case showed that right-wing dictatorships cannot be totalitarian (yes authoritarian). Because, by liberalizing the economy and strengthening intermediate bodies such as the family, they exclude a large part of social life from state control. And they are provisional because the material growth fostered by the free market leads to a society that sooner or later demands democracy.
Yes, in Chile they opened "the great avenues through which the free man will pass." It was made hand in hand with capitalism and the limited state. The rejection of the draft Bolivarian Constitution in the 2022 referendum allows us to preserve the hope that they remain open.